Michael Walzer
Professor Emeritus, The Institute for Advanced Study

Michael Walzer: What is the common good?

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Michael Walzer tells us why we should care.

Michael Walzer

Michael Walzer is one of America's leading political philosophers. He is a professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey and editor of Dissent, a left-wing quarterly of politics and culture. He has written on a wide range of topics, including just and unjust wars, nationalism, ethnicity, economic justice, social criticism, radicalism, tolerance, and political obligation. He is also a contributing editor to The New Republic and a member of the editorial board of Philosophy & Public Affairs. To date he has written 27 books and has published over 300 articles, essays, and book reviews. He is a member of several philosophical organizations including the American Philosophical Society.


Question: What is the common good?

Michael Walzer: I have always been suspicious of terms in that that come in the singular. Maybe there are, maybe we should think of common goods. We want citizens, we want our children to grow up in a world where there is physical security which terrorism calls into question. Physical security is one common good. Freedom, political liberty, is another common good. A much greater degree of social equality is another common good. Those are, to my mind, the crucial common goods, and, referring back to our last question, a culture in which larger percentage of the population is engaged at a higher level, that's also a common good.